Originally published under the title "Sorry, Egypt No Longer a Province of the Ottoman Empire."
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan loves flashing the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's four-fingered "Rabia" salute.
In August, possibly the first cheerful news containing the words "Turkey" and "Egypt" hit the headlines in the Turkish press since July 2013, when Egypt's army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi spearheaded a coalition to remove Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Turkish chargé d'affaires in Cairo (Turkey and Egypt withdrew their ambassadors after a row) married an Egyptian actress and former beauty queen on August 2. Their wedding was by attended by Turkish, Egyptian and foreign diplomats at a Turkish embassy residence in Giza.
At the wedding ceremony, the Turkish groom, Alper Bosuter, said that Turkey's relations with Egypt have been tense but would eventually return to their normal course. The Egyptian bride, Inci Abdullah, said she wished their marriage to have a positive effect on the two countries' relations.
Best wishes. But not so fast, given Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's obsession about building a Muslim Brotherhood regime in Cairo.
Egypt is unnerved by overt and covert Turkish support for the Muslim Brotherhood.
In 1805, Muhammad Ali Pasha ["Kavalali Mehmet Ali Pasa" in Turkish], an Ottoman army commander of Albanian origin, seized power in Egypt. His dynasty would rule Egypt until the revolution of 1952. Under his rule, Egypt was nominally an Ottoman province. In 1867, Egypt was granted the status of an autonomous vassal state or "khedivate." It would remain an Ottoman "khedivate" until 1914.
With the rise to power of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 2012, Turkey's neo-Ottomans, most notably (then prime minister) Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (then foreign minister) miscalculated that Egypt, the most populous Arab nation, could once again become a "khedivate" of an emerging Turkish empire, with its Muslim Brother rulers paying servitude to their Turkish ideological next of kin.
Instead, today, Morsi is imprisoned, a death sentence hanging over his head, possibly never to be executed; Muslim Brothers are on Egypt's terror list; Turkey and Egypt have downgraded their diplomatic relations to the level of chargé d'affaires; and hostilities between Turkey's ruling Islamists and Egypt's ruling Muslims are deepening every day, with no prospect of normalization in the foreseeable future.
Turkish-Egyptian hostility is deepening, with no prospect of normalization in the foreseeable future.
Erdogan keeps on investing in the Muslim Brotherhood, politically and otherwise. No doubt, the Brotherhood's famous "Rabia" sign, four fingers raised, the symbol of Brotherhood's riots against President Sisi, will be cheerfully featured at election rallies in Turkey -- by Erdogan -- in the run up to renewed parliamentary elections on Nov. 1.
The Muslim Brotherhood "Rabia" sign was a major election campaign theme used by the Turkey's ruling Islamists in the last three elections: municipal (March 2014), presidential (August 2014) and parliamentary (June 7, 2015). There is no reason why it should be abandoned, as Erdogan et. al view it as an inexpensive and easy vote-catcher.
Meanwhile, Egypt is increasingly unnerved by overt Turkish activity to support the Muslim Brotherhood politically, and covert Turkish activity to support alleged subversion.
Erdogan's obsessive shadow-fighting with Egypt undermines Western efforts to stabilize the region.
In July, news reports said that the Egyptian military had captured Turkish intelligence officers and jihadists involved in guerrilla warfare targeting Egypt and Sisi's regime. An Egyptian news site provided the names of a Turkish intelligence officer and his Arab operatives, who were captured and accused of attacks against Egyptian troops stationed in the Sinai Peninsula. Moreover, Egyptian officials often accuse Turkey of providing safe haven to Muslim Brotherhood terrorists, including their broadcasts from Turkish territory.
Erdogan's obsessive shadow-fighting with the Egyptian regime in the hope of rebuilding a Muslim Brotherhood regime in the former Ottoman "khedivate" is bad news: it undermines any Western effort to stabilize -- relatively -- the turbulent Middle East.
To augment any allied campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) the United States needs regional support. Egypt remains a staunch ally in the war against radical Islamists. Turkey has just recently joined the coalition campaign after several months of negotiations with its NATO allies. But Turkey's deep ideological problems with Egypt would only weaken the allied-plus-regional-powers effort against ISIS.
In remarks late in July, Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said: "For a long time now, we have called on all states in the region to be more forthcoming in dealing with the ISIS threat, including monitoring and control of borders. Unfortunately, this has not been the case with Turkey."
The neo-Ottoman ambitions of Turkey's Islamists to make Egypt a "neo-khedivate" have crashed into the wall of Middle Eastern realities. But those ambitions are still alive and kicking and could damage a cohesive allied fight against the jihadists.
Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based columnist for the Turkish daily Hürriyet and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.